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How Status Might Be Universal

Updated: Sep 12

(September 2023 note: I am no longer handicapped. I explained why in this article).

I recently travelled to a distant city to acquire a certain breathing machine, whose purpose is to give me air while I'm asleep. It is built of a machine, a tube, and a mask I have to put on. Since I struggle to equip and unequip the mask by myself, I simply detach it from the tube whenever I get out of bed. There's a reason for this introduction, relevant to the content at hand. Humor me for now.

Looking at myself in the mirror with this strange mask, I realized that it is more than just its functionality; it is also a representation of status. By "status," I do not mean a high status, but rather a general standing within society. It symbolizes the fact that I am handicapped and that I require an external device to help me cope with it. Using this mask as a necessity means that I now have greater recognition as a handicapped man, not only in my country but also by those worldwide who know me.

What if we all have statuses? Not only humans, but all other forms of life on our planet? The clothes you wear, the field you work in, your personal interests, and so on. They do not only represent yourself but also your position in your various interpersonal circles (from your family to humanity at large). By "status", "position" and so on, I refer to one's value and recognition externally of him or her.

But the thing is, you do not have control over your status, even if you are able to influence it through the labels that represent it. You may be a king in one place, but in another, you might be treated as a lowlife. The point is, your standing depends on external perception and on how it largely perceives representations associated with yourself.

Therefore, status may be universal in the sense that we all have one, but that status isn't the same in everyone's eyes. It depends not only on cultural differences but also on personal taste. Thus, we can say that it's universal only in one aspect.

The concept of an "alpha male" or "alpha female" is unrealistic because one's dominance depends on whether or not others will actually comply with him or her. The "alpha" person might have desirable personality traits and appearance, but they can't dictate their external perception or their own standing, unless the people involved will "submit" to their will. I don't use such terms as "alpha" or "beta," which, due to this fallacy, many seem to miss when discussing such topics. I also managed to find other archetypes that are based on the Latin alphabet, but there isn't a wide agreement on most of these terms' definitions.

In fictional media, you might know sometimes instantly when a character might be a villain. An eye patch, scars, and a military-like uniform might probably raise the thought in most of your minds that that character is likely to be evil. Like my mask, these are status symbols, even if they seem stereotypical at first. Anything can symbolize status, regardless of that status' position on whatever scale there is.

You can see that such representations of status are subjective when we actually use a real-life example of someone who had some of them. Moshe Dayan was an Israeli military leader who wore an eyepatch because he lost one of his eyes. Of course, there's nothing "evil" about losing an eye by itself. The point is that his eyepatch is an indication of his military experience (he lost it during an exchange of fire), just like my mask is an indication of my fatigue. That's what I mean by representation: a visual representation of something the person has or has gone through. It also goes to show that someone isn't necessarily evil because they wear an eyepatch (it sometimes is in fiction).

There is this cliche that it is the inside part of the person that matters, far more in comparison to one's external appearance. The truth is, externality also matters because it also represents the person's internal components (the mind, the personality, and so on). Even if this representation is often inaccurate, it seems that we humans tend to judge others by stereotypes and by the bias that comes from our first impression of them. While I won't wear this mask outside, you already know how it looks (maybe it's my first impression to some of you?).

Keep in mind that your represented status can be very important at times. Your clothes may influence your chances of getting certain jobs, and they can also influence someone's interest in you on a date. As said before, that influence is a product of both the individual and his or her receivers. It's technically a very subtle, unconscious cooperation between at least two parties (except when it is conscious, sometimes).

If you seek to better know yourself, I suggest reflecting on your various standings amongst humanity. Their external impression of you can also indicate who you are, even if some of that impression is incorrect. Look in the mirror, just like I did, and try doing so as if you're looking through the eyes of someone who isn't you. It can be anyone, from a complete stranger to your dearest ones. Nowadays, I know that I shouldn't underestimate external perception, even though I may be unaware of it most of the time.

While I believe that we are more of our societal perception, it also logically means, that some of who we are, may be a product of said perception.

And remember this: Even hermits who chose to live in the wilderness, may be perceived by the local wildlife, from the hungry predator to one's next meal. And if there's an omnipresent god, then you may also be perceived by him.

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Tomasio A. Rubinshtein, Philosocom's Founder & Writer

I am a philosopher from Israel, author of several books in 2 languages, and Quora's Top Writer of the year 2018. I'm also a semi-hermit who has decided to dedicate his life to writing and sharing my articles across the globe. Several podcasts on me, as well as a radio interview, have been made since my career as a writer. More information about me can be found here.

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